Treatments for Broken Hips

Jul 12, 2016

Treatments for Broken Hips

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Every year, over 300,000 seniors 65 and older are hospitalized for hip fractures. Nearly all hip fractures are caused by falling, usually sideways.

Diagnosing Hip Fractures in Older Adults

Before receiving treatment for a broken hip, doctors will need to run tests and diagnose a broken hip. Doctors will provide a physical examination as well as an x-ray to identify the site of the fracture. If the fracture is difficult to reveal through this type of imaging, other techniques such as MRI or CT scans will be used to produce detailed pictures of the hip area and its surrounding muscles, tissues, and fat.

After the fracture is understood, the injury will likely be placed in one of three categories:

Femoral Neck Fractures

Since the neck of the femur is usually the weakest part of the bone, these injuries are common. Fractures occur 1 to 2 inches from where the head of the bone meets the socket of the femur. Immediate treatment is critical to recovery since fractures of this kind may cut off the blood circulation to the ball of the hip by tearing blood vessels.

Intertrochanteric Hip Fractures

These usually occur 3 to 4 inches away from the joint itself, so treating this area of the bone can be a bit more straightforward. Generally speaking, the farther away from the ball and socket hip fractures occur, the lesser the risk of losing circulation.

Intracapsular Fractures

May lead to a high incidence of healing difficulties - these injuries affect the actual ball and socket of the hip, causing a tearing of the blood vessels that nourish the joint. Treating this type of injury immediately is a must. 

Seeking Treatment Options for Hip Fractures

When seeking treatment for a broken hip, your doctor is likely to consider your age and physical condition before making a treatment plan. Most of the time, older people who may have additional medication issues will be provided with treatment plans based on factors such as:

  • Medications prescribed to you
  • Past surgeries to repair or replace a hip
  • Experience with physical therapy

It’s important to note that your previous health is the main factor considered by doctors when moving forward with your treatment. In rare cases, patients can be too ill to receive surgery and so it is not recommended. This risk is mostly associated with complications arising from the use of anesthesia or severe immune system deficiencies. If a patient was unable to walk or was confined to a wheelchair prior to the injury, there is the chance that doctors will pursue a non-surgical option.

Since certain types of fractures may be considered stable enough to forgo surgery, patients must be healthy enough to be confined to a bed in order for the bones to heal. These treatments are highly monitored to avoid complications due to prolonged immobilization such as:

  • Infections
  • Bed sores
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood clots
  • Nutritional wasting

Surgical Treatments

Surgical treatments will require either general anesthesia with a breathing tube or spinal anesthesia. In the rare instance where only a few small screws are planned for fixation, local anesthesia, and heavy sedation may be considered. Regardless, all patients will receive antibiotics during and after the surgery for at least a 24-hour period.

In addition to blood tests, x-rays, electrocardiograms, and urine samples, the main procedures will involve the setting of bone with durable, medical grade components.

Depending on the type of fracture you’ve suffered, the surgical solution will vary. Usually, a series of screws, rods, and locking plates will be used to stabilize and facilitate the healing of the broken portions of the femur. Screws can extend into the socket and the femur, given the site of the fracture.

Otherwise, an entire hip replacement may be the better decision, especially for intracapsular fractures. Here, the entire ball and socket of the hip are replaced with artificial components. Doctors will move forward with your treatment and recovery based on your past medical conditions and health before the injury.

After the surgery, patients will be required to stay at the hospital for around a week until physical rehabilitation services begin. At this point, people can start reconditioning their muscles and joints to function appropriately with the new surgical implants.

Although it’s not a fun process, the right combination of surgeries and rehabilitation can have you ready to get back up and life your live the way you want to! 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What's the average recovery time for hip surgery?

This will depend on your overall health and how involved you are with your rehabilitation and healing process. Immediately after the surgery, you or your loved one will stay three to four days overnight. During your recovery time, you will participate in physical therapy for your broken hip, and will also want to continue to rehab your hip with exercises at home. Eventually, within a month you should be able to walk with the help of crutches or a walker. A few months after that, you should be able to walk on your own.

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How does osteoporosis play a role in hip injuries?

Osteoporosis is a decrease in bone density and this means your bones, including your hips, can become extra fragile. Those with osteoporosis have a higher chance of injuries resulting in broken bones. Those with osteoporosis can break or fracture bones just by sneezing in some severe cases. If you are at risk of developing osteoporosis, contact your doctor to discuss which treatment options might be most appropriate for you. 

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